Gluconeogenesis pathway with key molecules and enzymes. Many steps are the opposite of those found in the glycolysis.

Gluconeogenesis (abbreviated GNG) is a metabolic pathway that results in the generation of glucose from non-carbohydrate carbon substrates such as lactate, glycerol, and glucogenic amino acids.

It is one of the two main mechanisms humans and many other animals use to keep blood glucose levels from dropping too low (hypoglycemia). The other means of maintaining blood glucose levels is through the degradation of glycogen (glycogenolysis).[1]

Gluconeogenesis is a ubiquitous process, present in plants, animals, fungi, bacteria, and other microorganisms.[2] In animals, gluconeogenesis takes place mainly in the liver and, to a lesser extent, in the cortex of kidneys. This process occurs during periods of fasting, starvation, low-carbohydrate diets, or intense exercise and is highly endergonic. For example, the pathway leading from pyruvate to glucose-6-phosphate requires 4 molecules of ATP and 2 molecules of GTP. Gluconeogenesis is often associated with ketosis. Gluconeogenesis is also a target of therapy for type II diabetes, such as metformin, which inhibits glucose formation and stimulates glucose uptake by cells.[3]


Entering the pathway

Lactate is transported back to the liver where it is converted into pyruvate by the Cori cycle using the enzyme lactate dehydrogenase. Pyruvate, the first designated substrate of the gluconeogenic pathway, can then be used to generate glucose.[4]

Catabolism of proteinogenic amino acids. Amino acids are classified according the abilities of their products to enter gluconeogenesis:[5]
  • Glucogenic amino acids have this ability
  • Ketogenic amino acids do not. These products may still be used for ketogenesis or lipid synthesis.
  • Some amino acids are catabolized into both glucogenic and ketogenic products.

All citric acid cycle intermediates, through conversion to oxaloacetate, amino acids other than lysine or leucine, and glycerol can also function as substrates for gluconeogenesis.[4] Transamination or deamination of amino acids facilitates entering of their carbon skeleton into the cycle directly (as pyruvate or oxaloacetate), or indirectly via the citric acid cycle.

Whether fatty acids can be converted into glucose in animals has been a longstanding question in biochemistry.[6] It is known that odd-chain fatty acids can be oxidized to yield propionyl CoA, a precursor for succinyl CoA, which can be converted to pyruvate and enter into gluconeogenesis. In plants, specifically seedlings, the glyoxylate cycle can be used to convert fatty acids (acetate) into the primary carbon source of the organism. The glyoxylate cycle produces four-carbon dicarboxylic acids that can enter gluconeogenesis.[4]

In 1995, researchers identified the glyoxylate cycle in nematodes.[7] In addition, the glyoxylate enzymes malate synthase and isocitrate lyase have been found in animal tissues.[8] Genes coding for malate synthase gene have been identified in other [metazoans] including arthropods, echinoderms, and even some vertebrates. Mammals found to possess these genes include monotremes (platypus) and marsupials (opossum) but not placental mammals. Genes for isocitrate lyase are found only in nematodes, in which, it is apparent, they originated in horizontal gene transfer from bacteria.

The existence of glyoxylate cycles in humans has not been established, and it is widely held that fatty acids cannot be converted to glucose in humans directly. However, carbon-14 has been shown to end up in glucose when it is supplied in fatty acids.[9] Despite these findings, it is considered unlikely that the 2-carbon acetyl-CoA derived from the oxidation of fatty acids would produce a net yield of glucose via the citric acid cycle.[6]

Glycerol, which is a part of the triacylglycerol molecule, can be used in gluconeogenesis.


In humans, gluconeogenesis is restricted to the liver and to a lesser extent the kidney.[10]

In all species, the formation of oxaloacetate from pyruvate and TCA cycle intermediates is restricted to the mitochondrion, and the enzymes that convert PEP to glucose are found in the cytosol.[11] The location of the enzyme that links these two parts of gluconeogenesis by converting oxaloacetate to PEP, PEP carboxykinase, is variable by species: it can be found entirely within the mitochondria, entirely within the cytosol, or dispersed evenly between the two, as it is in humans.[11] Transport of PEP across the mitochondrial membrane is accomplished by dedicated transport proteins; however no such proteins exist for oxaloacetate.[11] Therefore species that lack intra-mitochondrial PEP, oxaloacetate must be converted into malate or asparate, exported from the mitochondrion, and converted back into oxaloacetate in order to allow gluconeogenesis to continue.[11]


Gluconeogenesis is a pathway consisting of eleven enzyme-catalyzed reactions. The pathway can begin in the mitochondria or cytoplasm, depending on the substrate being used. Many of the reactions are the reversible steps found in glycolysis.

  • Gluconeogenesis begins in the mitochondria with the formation of oxaloacetate through carboxylation of pyruvate. This reaction also requires one molecule of ATP, and is catalyzed by pyruvate carboxylase. This enzyme is stimulated by high levels of acetyl-CoA (produced in β-oxidation in the liver) and inhibited by high levels of ADP.
  • Oxaloacetate is reduced to malate using NADH, a step required for transport out of the mitochondria.
  • Malate is oxidized to oxaloacetate using NAD+ in the cytoplasm, where the remaining steps of gluconeogenesis occur.
  • Oxaloacetate is decarboxylated and phosphorylated to produce phosphoenolpyruvate by phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase. One molecule of GTP is hydrolyzed to GDP during this reaction.
  • The next steps in the reaction are the same as reversed glycolysis. However, fructose-1,6-bisphosphatase converts fructose-1,6-bisphosphate to fructose 6-phosphate, requiring one water molecule and releasing one phosphate. This is also the rate-limiting step of gluconeogenesis.
  • Glucose-6-phosphate is formed from fructose 6-phosphate by phosphoglucoisomerase. Glucose-6-phosphate can be used in other metabolic pathways or dephosphorylated to free glucose. Whereas free glucose can easily diffuse in and out of the cell, the phosphorylated form (glucose-6-phosphate) is locked in the cell, a mechanism by which intracellular glucose levels are controlled by cells.
  • The final reaction of gluconeogenesis, the formation of glucose, occurs in the lumen of the endoplasmic reticulum, where glucose-6-phosphate is hydrolyzed by glucose-6-phosphatase to produce glucose. Glucose is shuttled into the cytosol by glucose transporters located in the membrane of the endoplasmic reticulum.


While most steps in gluconeogenesis are the reverse of those found in glycolysis, three regulated and strongly exergonic reactions are replaced with more kinetically favorable reactions. Hexokinase/glucokinase, phosphofructokinase, and pyruvate kinase enzymes of glycolysis are replaced with glucose-6-phosphatase, fructose-1,6-bisphosphatase, and PEP carboxykinase. This system of reciprocal control allow glycolysis and gluconeogenesis to inhibit each other and prevent the formation of a futile cycle.

The majority of the enzymes responsible for gluconeogenesis are found in the cytoplasm; the exceptions are mitochondrial pyruvate carboxylase and, in animals, phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase. The latter exists as an isozyme located in both the mitochondrion and the cytosol.[12] The rate of gluconeogenesis is ultimately controlled by the action of a key enzyme, fructose-1,6-bisphosphatase, which is also regulated through signal transduction by cAMP and its phosphorylation.

Most factors that regulate the activity of the gluconeogenesis pathway do so by inhibiting the activity or expression of key enzymes. However, both acetyl CoA and citrate activate gluconeogenesis enzymes (pyruvate carboxylase and fructose-1,6-bisphosphatase, respectively). Due to the reciprocal control of the cycle, acetyl-CoA and citrate also have inhibitory roles in the activity of pyruvate kinase.

Global control of gluconeogenesis is mediated by glucagon (released when blood glucose is low); it triggers phosphorylation of enzymes and regulatory proteins by Protein Kinase A (a cyclic AMP regulated kinase) resulting in inhibition of glycolysis and stimulation of gluconeogenesis, thus bringing blood glucose levels up.[13]


  1. ^ Silva, Pedro. "The Chemical Logic Behind Gluconeogenesis". Retrieved September 8, 2009. 
  2. ^ David L Nelson and Michael M Cox (2000). Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry. USA: Worth Publishers. pp. 724. ISBN 1-57259-153-6. 
  3. ^ Hundal R, Krssak M, Dufour S, Laurent D, Lebon V, Chandramouli V, Inzucchi S, Schumann W, Petersen K, Landau B, Shulman G (2000). "Mechanism by Which Metformin Reduces Glucose Production in Type 2 Diabetes". Diabetes 49 (12): 2063–9. doi:10.2337/diabetes.49.12.2063. PMC 2995498. PMID 11118008.  Free full textPDF (82 KiB)
  4. ^ a b c Garrett, Reginald H.; Charles M. Grisham (2002). Principles of Biochemistry with a Human Focus. USA: Brooks/Cole, Thomson Learning. pp. 578, 585. ISBN 0-03-097369-4. 
  5. ^ Chapter 20 (Amino Acid Degradation and Synthesis) in: Denise R., PhD. Ferrier. Lippincott's Illustrated Reviews: Biochemistry (Lippincott's Illustrated Reviews). Hagerstwon, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. ISBN 0-7817-2265-9. 
  6. ^ a b Figueiredo, Luis F., Stefan Schuster, Christoph Kaleta, David A. Fell (2009). "Can sugars be produced from fatty acids? A test case for pathway analysis tools". Bioinformatics 25 (1): 152–158. doi:10.1093/bioinformatics/btn621. PMID 19117076. 
  7. ^ Liu, F., et al. (1995). "Bifunctional glyoxylate cycle protein of Caenorhabditis elegans: a developmentally regulated protein of intestine and muscle". Developmental Biology 169 (2): 399–414. doi:10.1006/dbio.1995.1156. PMID 7781887. 
  8. ^ Fyodor A Kondrashov, Eugene V Koonin, Igor G Morgunov, Tatiana V Finogenova, Marie N Kondrashova (2006). "Evolution of glyoxylate cycle enzymes in Metazoa: evidence of multiple horizontal transfer events and pseudogene formation". Biology Direct 1: 31. doi:10.1186/1745-6150-1-31. PMC 1630690. PMID 17059607. 
  9. ^ Weinman, E.O., et al. (1957). "Conversion of fatty acids to carbohydrate: application of isotopes to this problem and role of the Krebs cycle as a synthetic pathway". Physiol. Rev. 37 (2): 252–72. PMID 13441426. 
  10. ^ Widmaier, Eric (2006). Vander's Human Physiology. McGraw Hill. pp. 96. ISBN 0-07-282741-6. 
  11. ^ a b c d Voet, Donald; Judith Voet, Charlotte Pratt (2008). Fundamentals of Biochemistry. John Wiley & Sons Inc. p. 556. ISBN 978-0470-12930-2. 
  12. ^ Chakravarty, K., Cassuto, H., Resef, L., & Hanson, R.W. (2005) Factors that control the tissue-specific transcription of the gene for phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase-C. Critical Reviews of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 40(3), 129-154.
  13. ^ - Gluconeogenesis, by Diwan. Cites no sources.

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